Congress boosts the metaverse…sort of- POLITICO

Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act Thursday features exciting scientists and buffs in cutting-edge fields like quantum computing, AI and robotics that could generate billions of dollars in new research funding.

One of the bill’s more unexpected inclusions is a directive for the National Science Foundation to research “immersive technology” — the catch-all term for the kind of virtual and augmented reality that should underpin the Metaverse. Its inclusion is a victory for the Association XRn, a trade group for virtual and augmented reality technology companies founded by giants like Google, Microsoft and Oculus among others, which lobbied Congress to add it.

Exactly what this particular bill Is to encourage such things is, for the moment, still undefined. “Immersive technology” is one of 10 items listed as “key technology areas” in the bill, into which the NSF will invest a portion of its share of the $200 billion authorized by the bill (one time, of course, it is appropriate).

To see where that money could be flowing in the VR research ecosystem, it’s helpful to look at past government investments and experiments with the technology.

In 2018 Deloitte published in memo describing how perpetually cash-strapped government agencies could benefit from virtual reality technology, including training first responders for hazardous situations, infrastructure maintenance and analysis, and introducing virtual reality into public classrooms. (The Department of Defense also got involved, with the military awarding Microsoft a reward of nearly $22 billion contract for using its HoloLens AR headsets.)

As exciting as all of these applications may seem, there are a number of significant barriers to their widespread adoption – the first of which being that the technology in question is still fairly nascent and the type of user experience data that would normally justify such a massive investment.

Even giants like Meta, with seemingly limitless money to pour into their VR headsets, are still struggling with motion sickness and usability issues; the military pushed back on the deployment of Microsoft’s HoloLens and in April the DoD inspector general published a report saying it’s not yet clear whether there’s enough individual buy-in among soldiers to justify the investment.

Perhaps the NSF’s research impulse could help with that, said Nick Maynard, co-founder and CEO of public-private technology organization US Ignite and former program director at the NSF. In recent years, the foundation has taken a big step towards applied research, intended to transform virtual reality from a chimera into a widely useful tool.

“They’re going to focus more on how now that we have this technology, how can we use it to solve the challenges the country is facing?” Maynard said. “It’s less about the technology for itself, but about thinking about how to create a pathway to implement it.”

Although VR and XR are currently all the rage due to the lavish promises of Metaverse entrepreneurs, the CHIPS Act does not mention the Metaverse by name. And Joan O’Haravice president of public policy for the XRA, was careful to distance her organizational funding arguments consumer promises from companies like Meta.

“If it’s something that’s going to be mostly used for virtually hanging out with your friends or shopping, that’s not where the United States should be spending its money,” she said. “You want to think about the future of technology as a whole, and we think immersive technology is an important part of that ecosystem.”

The adoption of CHIPS and the scientific law might be a rare, bipartisan, warm and fuzzy victory on the Hill, but are government interventions in the industry really work?

Well, maybe. Sometimes. In POLITICO Magazine today, well-stocked business journalism veteran Bob Davis takes a close look at some of the previous US government interventionswhich includes notable failures like “decades-long efforts to create ‘clean coal’, nuclear reactors that use recycled plutonium, nuclear fusion, synthetic fuels, and supersonic commercial jets”.

When it comes to chips, however, Davis is a bit more optimistic. There is an existing capacity and momentum to previous efforts started under the Trump administration, Davis points out. And Biden administration officials are backtracking on a public-private partnership launched under George HW Bush called SEMATECHwhich “paid substantial dividends” by making the US chip-competitive earlier in the PC era.

Pornography has propelled technological advances for decades, even centuriesand now one company is betting it can do the same for Web3 – “AdultDAO”, a token-driven “adult production company” that promises, in addition to old-school 2D porn, to deliver at some point given “full immersion Metaverse AR/Virtual Reality-based content.”

Like most other DAOs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, one earns a stake in AdultDAO by purchasing its “$ADULT” cryptocurrency, earning them both its value and a say in how the business operates. (Yes, you can read them white paper here.)

The benefits the company touts for doing its particular blockchain business are reminiscent of Bitcoin’s early days, when it was primarily used for transactions that, regardless of their legal status, people preferred to keep off the official books: anonymity and independence of the Visa/Mastercard system with all its pesky regulations, among others.

There are still many US laws and regulations surrounding adult content, of course. And when someone “on-chain” almost inevitably bumps into them, it will be another milestone in the ongoing stress test between Web3’s alternative institutions and those that still rule the world we live in.

Keep in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Constantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on twitter @DigitalFuture.

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